When I was learning about wine there were luminary personalities who forged fame and fortune in the wine industry. Following their lead, I set off on my own journey ultimately becoming the wine buyer for our family’s two liquor stores.
This rewarding choice has granted me admittance to the “inner circle” of wine professionals where tasting opportunities take me across the state, into Manhattan, and even abroad in the company of importers, estate owners, and top retailers. There is no problem holding my own in discussions with wine makers about the conditions of a particular vintage or the quality of the dirt (terroir) in the vineyard. It isn’t dull, I find it amazing and it feeds my passion.
So what? Well when I am in the store I have a genuine desire to help a customer. I know my product line well and to me I don’t just sell wines, I represent them. As a wine merchant I can make recommendations in regard to food pairings, party preparations, and gifting while providing insight into the many grapes, styles, and regions.
Lately the environment in retail has shifted. Consumers have put their faith in chain stores and mass market national brands over independent merchants and quality driven estate bottled wines. If I offer assistance on the sales floor I am too often rejected by a customer who assumes my motive is to unload worthless goods on them. I have felt the type of condescension that says, “You’re just a liquor store guy, if you could be anything else you wouldn’t be here.” Huh?
I am a wine merchant. I love my vocation and the product it entails. I enjoy legendary wines from vintages going back over thirty years. If people don’t get it that is not my fault. They are the ones who are missing out and more often than not, end up selecting and buying the worthless goods all on their own.